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Katarina Sokolova

The Ukrainian artist reveals why beautiful women always feature in her paintings, and how she fell in love with Painter...

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Favourite artists:
Dalí, Picasso, Renoir,Monet.
Software used:
Painter X, some Photoshop.
Average time taken per image:
It varies a lot, from ten days to one month.

Web: www.katarinasokolova.com

Ever since my childhood I have been living in two worlds – the real one and my own imaginary one,” says Katarina Sokolova. “Sometimes their realms lie far from each other, and sometimes they almost collide and I do not know where my next idea will materialise. In those rare cases when my fantasy and the reality intersect, I immediately attempt to draw a sketch.”

If Katarina’s exquisite paintings are anything to go by, that fantasy world is a rich one indeed. Created mainly in Painter, her work has featured in three Exposé books and two Exotique annuals. But these digital images, often of sensual, beautiful women, are just a part of Katarina’s repertoire, together with photography and traditional black and white graphic work.

Art education

She began drawing at the age of six and was enrolled in the workshops of the Painters’ Union in her native Ukraine. “I would completely leave behind the real world, forget its noisy streets, the time and my friends. I started batik – painting on silk – with its unimaginable magic of colours. It made me feel like a sorceress who could create an elusive, colourful, airy world of fantasy with a single stroke of a brush.”

Her next major obsession was black and white graphics, before she discovered computer art and threw itself into a world of colour. “They were not just a part of my life, they were my life,” she says. “In my mind, computer graphics are a way to remember a part of my illusion, to store it, transform it into an image and then to show my world to my audience.”

Along with her fashion and genre photography, each of these disciplines has a special meaning for Katarina, and she happily flits between them. “I draw my world with either black ink and coal, or with bright colours on the silk, depending on my mood and what I want to express on the canvas or cloth,” she explains. “For me, drawing is a kind of a dialogue. It is a dialogue between an artist and the surrounding world. It is also a dialogue between an artist and an audience.”

Her ideas come from everywhere but a recent visit to Japan is currently dominating her style. “The oriental culture and traditions have conquered my soul,” she says. “Japanese girls are very beautiful.” Her young niece is also providing plenty of ideas: “My sister makes up incredible stories for her and I draw illustrations for them.”

Diverse influences

In terms of historical influence, she adores Monet, Renoir and the Impressionists, but also Dalí and Bosch. The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th are an especially enticing era for her artist’s eye, and she can happily spend hours in galleries examining this work. “I wander along the museum halls to soak up the spirit of the epochs, the magic of colours and splendid atmospherics of the pictures.”

After dabbling in Photoshop when she began digital art seven years ago, she discovered Painter and was smitten. “In my opinion, Painter is the ideal software for digital painting,” she says. “It gives incredible choice for creating beautiful, full works. You can create airy paintings full of light, and show the tiniest tints of colours in numerous palettes.”

Each of her digital pieces begins life as a pencil sketch. This is then scanned and imported into Painter. “I start to impose general colour at first. The shadows, light and transitions between basic colours are applied to the woman’s figure (because I always paint a woman in my work!) and I determine the general tone for the background. After that I begin to work with the details.”

Female of the species

Katarina makes no apologies for her fascination with impossibly beautiful and immaculate women. “Being a woman, I am intimately aware of the feminine nature, emotions and feelings and I can use them to enliven my work. A woman, just like nature, is an object of beauty. And beauty, as we know, will save the world.” So will men ever get a look in? “Undoubtedly! I already have some ideas for this.”
So far, most of her work has been sold to private customers – some via commissions and some “off the peg”. There have been buyers in Britain, Spain, Japan, Switzerland and the US, but not many in her home country. “I know that the computer games and comics industries are developing well in Ukraine,” she explains, “but it is not my line of business, I think.”

Much to her regret, there’s little time to create her own personal work, but she hopes all that will change soon. This year she’ll earn her degree in economics, and with that under her belt, she plans to expand her range of projects, including a series of paintings that will form the basis of a future art book.
Until then, she’ll continue to be awed by the beauty of the world. “It is extremely, unbelievably beautiful. It is perfect and complete,” she sighs. “Sometimes I even feel scared by its beauty.”

From issue 21.

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